Launched in 2006, Google Docs is built on three web-based applications: word processing; spreadsheets; and, a presentation tool. These free, easy-to-use tools make it possible for users to not only access files from any Internet-connected computer, but also to invite others to view and edit files, supporting real time collaboration at a level not previously possible.
Why blog about a tool that’s nearly four years old? Recently, Google launched several new features making it even easier for users to work collaboratively to create and edit word processing documents, spreadsheet files, and now drawings as well. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most useful new features.
Word processing: Updated editing capabilities are the main feature here. It’s now possible to see character-by-character editing being done by collaborators without having to refresh the page. This means collaborators can make changes without having to worry about over-writing one another. A chat feature has been added as well so collaborators can ‘talk’ with one another as they work. It is also now possible to format documents using tabs and real margins. As a result, it will be easier to retain formatting when uploading and downloading documents.
Spreadsheets: Speed is a key descriptor for improvements made here. Spreadsheets load faster and are easier to navigate (both scrolling and from sheet to sheet). It’s now possible to edit cells in the formula bar and to drag and drop columns.
Draw: The drawing tool, launched a year ago, made it possible to embed drawings in other files. Now it’s possible to create and collaborate on stand-alone drawings thanks to a new drawing editor that allows users to work collaboratively on individual draw files.
Google Docs has become an indispensable tool for many educators. The price is right, the learning curve is minimal, software compatibility issues are eliminated, and it facilitates true collaboration for educators and students. If you haven’t given Google Docs a try, now is the time. If you are a current user, you’ll definitely appreciate these most recent improvements.
For a quick recap of the information provided here, or to share with colleagues, check out this YouTube video, Introducing a New Google Docs.